INNOCENT LANDSCAPES REVISITED: 25 / OCT / 2009
STRAIGHT LINES AND A CROOKED BORDER
Posted by David Farrell
The South Armagh/Louth region is a fascinating area in terms of roads and 'latent' border crossings. On my first journey to Colgagh in 1999 I was very struck by the way a more or less straight road crossed in and out of the North and the South at various points perhaps aiding and abetting its historical currency as Bandit Country, a notion that goes back centuries.
I remember as a child any time we drove to the North that once we got beyond Dundalk a cloud of anxiety would settle in and around my parents, my sister and myself – long gone were simple games like spotting signs for Butlins that had marked an earlier stage of our journey - and an apprehensive silence filled our small car as we approached the main border post at Killeen. I spoke recently to someone from the South who was engaged in politics in the North in recent times and who traveled regularly by train and they told me that there was a point on the line again beyond Dundalk marked by a white pole after which their senses stepped up a notch. I wonder what were the sensations of people from either of the main communities up north when they traveled south.
Traveling north now by car the new motorway obliterates this psychological border. Like most motorways the combination of not knowing exactly where you might be and of your uninterrupted speed propel you forward into the future. Ironically this bi-directional high-speed link was, up to a few months ago, car-parked in or around Newry as southern shoppers headed north to avoid the rip-off Republic but that is probably the subject of many blogs if not possibly entire websites. That said the smaller roads in and around South Armagh are still quite 'latent' in an other sense in that unbeknownst to myself and many local people we recently drove along a road that was primed with a 600lb bomb that failed to go off. This bomb had a command wire that ran a considerable distance into the South and was planted by a small group of people who unfortunately "haven't gone away" and have precious little support but who are looking for a "spectacular". So one can't be too complacent.